Egg Recall: FDA Finds Salmonella on Suspect Farms

Salmonella ID'd in Chicken Manure, Pullet Feed at Source of Recalled Eggs

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

Aug. 26, 2010 -- The farms implicated in the nationwide egg recall are indeed contaminated with salmonella, FDA investigators find.

Fortunately, the FDA earlier this month pressured Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms -- two Iowa facilities that are part of the same company -- into voluntarily recalling over a half billion eggs. It's by far the largest U.S. egg recall on record.

Now, for the first time, the FDA says its investigators have found salmonella in four samples from the suspect facilities:

  • a sample from chicken manure
  • a manure sample found on a barn walkway
  • a sample from chicken feed made at a pullet-raising facility that supplies hens to the two egg farms
  • a sample from a feed ingredient

FDA investigators are still testing hundreds of other samples. In a few days, they will file a full report on the extent of salmonella contamination at the facilities, Jeff Farrar, DVM, PhD, MPH, FDA associate commissioner for food protection, said at a news teleconference.

The salmonella found by investigators matches the DNA fingerprint of salmonella that has sickened egg consumers in a nationwide outbreak, Sherri McGarry, emergency coordinator for the FDA's food safety branch, said at the news conference.

"Although it is a common salmonella strain, this finding in feed indicates that Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms are the likely sources of contaminated eggs," McGarry said.

Meanwhile, the CDC continues to receive reports of people coming down with salmonella food poisoning, Chris Braden, MD, acting director of the CDC's center for foodborne diseases, said at the news conference.

Braden said the CDC has now received 2,403 confirmed reports of salmonella from May 1 through Aug. 25. Over the last five years, an average 933 salmonella illnesses are reported during this period. That means some 1,470 reported cases are due to the outbreak linked to eggs.

The CDC estimates that for every reported case, there are 30 to 38 unreported cases. That suggests that contaminated eggs have sickened some 44,100 to 55,860 Americans. Since reports take two to three weeks to reach the CDC -- and since many contaminated eggs may still be in consumers' refrigerators -- more illness reports are expected.

However, the CDC has not seen any new clusters of illness since the 26 previously reported. That suggests that there is no new source of outbreak-associated salmonella.

Farrar said it's likely that new brand names will be added to the egg recall. The FDA has an updated list of recalled eggs on its web site.

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SOURCES: Jeff Farrar, DVM, PhD, MPH, commissioner for food protection, FDA.

Chris Braden, MD, acting director, center for foodborne diseases, CDC.

Sherri McGarry, emergency coordinator, food safety branch, FDA.

FDA web site.

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